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  • Writer's pictureStan Awtrey

The “It’s My Fault” approach to solving problems

Many yester years ago, when I was a young sportswriter, I covered a high school coach named John B. Sawyer. He was a real character – and a dang good baseball coach. He was a country guy who always had a chaw of tobacco in his mouth, although there was always a trail of juice out of his mouth and probably left that part of his chin permanently stained.

John B. died the other day. He was 88. But the stories about him and the lessons he taught other will carry on for generations. I ran into a friend, who coached against John B. for many years, and he reminded me of one of his favorite tales.

Seems that South Gwinnett High School, where Sawyer toiled for 36 years and today has the field named in his honor, played a miserable game one afternoon. They were beaten by an inferior opponent and Sawyer didn’t know how to address his team after the game.

What he did was genius.

And it gave birth to the “It’s My Fault” strategy.

Here’s how it went:

After the game, Sawyer had his team sit in the dugout and he began to speak to each player who sat on the wooden bench.

“I’m sorry. This is my fault,” he told the first kid. “Because I’m the one who put you at second base, knowing that you are a horrible fielder and couldn’t possibly make a play. It’s my fault.”

He stepped in front of the next kid, hitched up his pants and started again.

“I’m sorry. This is my fault,” he said. “Because I put you on the mound, even though you have never shown an ability to throw strikes. So the fact you walked six guys and gave up two home runs is on me. It’s my fault.”

That was just the beginning. He apologized to each kid on the team, then proceeded to throw each of them under the bus.

This was genius.

After the game, several parents asked The Coach what he had told the players.

“I told them it was my fault,” he said.

And that’s honestly what he did, too.

Sometimes, regardless of whether you own a business or coach a high school baseball team, you’ve just to be honest. And you can do that by taking the blame – even if it’s done tongue in cheek.

My friend, who told me this story, said, “I used this myself for my team one time. It worked great.”

Not a bad strategy, especially from an old home-spun baseball coach.

Thanks John B.

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